With two days to drive from Madrid to a resort in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, my traveling companion and I wanted to see something of the Spanish countryside. If you've been to Castille-La Mancha, you know the countryside is rather flat and uninspiring, which can make for a long, boring drive. We are both interested in history and architecture, and also wanted to sample some of the local wines. So as we headed south on the A-4 highway, I used our GPS to look for some interesting diversions off the main route, and found two that only added an extra hour to our drive, and led to a great lunch as well.
Anybody familiar with Don Quixote will remember his "battle" against the windmills, and will probably find Campo de Criptana a worthwhile side trip. At the top of a hill in the center of this small town are 12 windmills from the 16th-Century, like the one faced by the famous knight-errant. Two of them are open for tourists to explore, and you can learn how medieval Spaniards used wind power to grind wheat into flour. An art studio nearby exhibits (and sells) paintings and drawings of the "molinos."
Our second stop was at the Museo del Vino in Valdepeñas. The wine museum has several rooms that explain the climate and soil conditions in the region, the types of grapes grown in the area, and the history of viniculture in Spain, including the efforts the locals went through in the Dark Ages to continue making wine despite official objections by the Muslims when they controlled the area. The exhibits also include farm implements and tools used in winemaking from grape crushers and hand pressers to the enormous barrels where wine is aged. We stopped for tapas at La Fonda del Alberto, Calle Cristo, 67, Valdepeñas for a delicious meal. A glass of vino blanco, some delicately grilled calamares, langostinos cocidos and pulpo a la gallega, and we were ready to get back on the highway and continue our journey south.
Photo by Ron Harris